Keeping Families Connected During Coronavirus
As the fight continues against the coronavirus, methods are being worked out to keep families in contact with patients in facilities such as hospices.
Nursing homes, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities shut their doors to visitors last month, on orders from Gov. Ron DeSantis, who said there was evidence of wider contamination of the coronavirus in Florida.
“We understand that this is creating fear and panic; and we need everyone to stay focused on our shared priority of protecting our elderly and our medically frail from this infection,” said Mary Mayhew, secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, or ACHA.
Speaking last month, she said it was critical for her agency to support the facilities and staffs on the front lines of the pandemic.
“Nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other long-term care residential providers are discontinuing their visitation for at least 30 days with few exceptions,” Mayhew said. “And we’re doing this to protect our most vulnerable.”
The providers, says Mayhew, are working with patients’ families on alternative methods to connect with their loved ones.
“We cannot wait until COVID-19 is spreading through a nursing home to act aggressively on prevention,” said Mayhew. “We have to take decisive action now.”
Meanwhile, the number of reported coronavirus infections at nursing homes and assisted living facilities quintupled last week by 380 cases in 41 Florida counties. But despite rising numbers, state health officials won’t say whether there’s “community spread” in the facilities.
“It is a difficult time, we’re taking a lot of extra precautions following strictly all the CDC guidelines to ensure that patients and our employees stay safe throughout all this,” said Jeff Rogers, communications director at Covenant Care in Pensacola. He adds that shutting down to outsiders also presents a big challenge.
“The residents that are there can become isolated, and feel depressed and anxious because they’re used to having family visit,” Rogers said. “Can you imagine having Easter roll around, and for the first time ever not being able to connect with your family? We saw this as a big problem.”
Covenant is working with assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and others to provide technology that would enable those on both sides of the barrier to link. Thus was born The Connective Initiative.
“And they can choose what type of technology they want to provide, from the lowest-cost device, all the way up to a suite of monitoring devices that help nurses check in on patients remotely,” said Rogers. “It’s a time where we’re trying to bring people together when we have to be apart.”
The connections could range from setting up basic Internet service, to an Ipad with video capability, up to the top-end remote patient monitoring system, using a tablet and Bluetooth technology.
What could be called a challenge-within-a-challenge is making sure that some residents — who are older and perhaps not as tech-savvy — can get hooked up.
“It’s always been a challenge, I believe, to make sure that the technology matches the user,” said Rogers. “So we’re going to ensure that all these had a lot of simplicity built into them. And we’ll get a lot of help from the staff in getting patients connected with their families.”
The high-tech services — along with areas such as treatment and sanitation — are aimed at serving the community’s sickest and most defenseless.
“This is a perfect match for people who want to do something tangible; they can put this communication device in somebody’s hands and reconnect them with their families. It’s just a wonderful opportunity,” said Rogers.
For more information about The Connective Initiative, visit www.choosecovenant.org.